B.C. teachers, province set to square off at Supreme Court of Canada
Hearing on 14-year-long dispute starts Nov. 10 at Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa
After years of legal battles, the B.C. Teachers' Federation and the Province of British Columbia are set to kick off one final fight. A hearing is scheduled to begin Thursday morning in the Supreme Court of Canada to rule once and for all on whether the B.C. government needs to restore language about class size, composition rules and specialist teacher ratios to the teachers' contract.
"The B.C. Teachers' Federation, on behalf of our 41,000 members, is looking forward to the opportunity to present our arguments to the Supreme Court of Canada," said BCTF President Glen Hansman in a short statement.
Dispute more than a decade old
The ongoing dispute dates back to 2002, when the province used legislation to strip teachers of their right to bargain class size and composition. The teachers fought that legislation in B.C. Supreme Court and won in 2011.
But Bill 22, which the government passed in 2012, similarly blocked teachers from negotiating class size and composition. The BCTF challenged the constitutionality of that legislation, saying it is "virtually identical to the legislation previously declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of British Columbia."
The B.C. government is confident that even though it is facing the union in court, the relationship between the sides is stronger now than it was when the legal process started.
"While the Supreme Court reviews this appeal, we need to keep the focus on what matters most: working with teachers to implement the new curriculum and working together to benefit students," said the B.C. government in a statement. "The case is about union bargaining rights and process."
BCTF President Glen Hansman and former union president Jim Iker are in Ottawa for the start of the hearing.